Interview With Author – Michael Kott

 Hello All!

I had the honor and opportunity to have an interview with Michael Kott – the author of Piasa, Cryptid and LifeShift. I have had the chance to read Piasa (read my review) and Cryptid (read my review)  so far, and LifeShift is on my TBR list.

When did you realise that you wanted to become a writer?

   I considered it at times but got serious when writing with my daughter.  After going to the Naval Academy  and serving her retired time in the Navy, she was attempting to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. She needed something to fill her time there and asked if I wanted to help her write a book about what it was like for a girl to go to the Naval Academy. This was in the early 2000s. She quit Hollywood because she could not see that lifestyle but as she followed her husband from station to station, we continued, via the internet, to continue write. While she was in Memphis, Tennessee, she had the idea of us getting together somewhere in between where I live (Chicago area) and Memphis. Looking at a map we decided on Alton, Illinois, where we found a nice Bread & Breakfast House to rent.  There I was introduced to the Piasa legend and I began writing about that.  Finally, Krystee, tired of the inability of agents to place her novel and finding herself about to have her first child, told me she was giving up writing. I continued.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

   Our stay in Alton sparked the Piasa novel and an interest in Cryptozoology. That led to Cryptid.  Those stories are in my website blog. Cryptid contains a setup for a third novel but at present I don’t know if I want to continue them.  Most of my ideas of stories originate in the form of dreams, Usually I try to write based on the dream but it leads somewhere else. Both LifeShift and Moonglimmer started that way, as separate novels, but later merged into one idea. Many scenes are based on personal experiences, especially those in LifeShift and the currently being written, Shadow Lake.

 

Where did you get your idea for Piasa?

    I covered this above, but failed to mention that I was actually aware of this obscure legend even  before and it was instrumental in my suggesting Alton as our meeting place. I was looking up something else on the early internet and somehow came across the early pictograph which is said to be the Piasa. That sparked an interest and I gathered many stories of it, many which seemed to have now disappeared off the internet.  I was aware of a museum in Alton which had featured the Piasa myth in an exhibit, and when I found it was very close to a bed & breakfast, I suggested that as a place to stay. I have pictures of the trip (everything in Alton has changed) if you want to see them. The story started with just the Mike and Pamela characters until someone suggested it would be a good YA tale. Enter Sara Marshall.

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

   I’ve never had writer’s block, I more get Writer’s Interference. That is other things interfering with the process.  With those I let them run their course.

 

What does your writing process look like?

     I usually write in the morning’s, but sometime’s it runs all day. If Something changes, I go back and rewrite immediately. Everyone says to finish first but I can’t do that. Sometimes I switch stories when changes have put my intended outline in jeopardy.  When a story is well on its way I’ll seek someone to read it and give me feedback. Lately that’s been my editor. Being self-published, I don’t have some army of people at some publishers to fall back on. I seek out readers and I have a trusted editor in California. She is very honest with me and gives me critical feedback. When we agree a story is finished, I hire a cover creator and at the same time send it off to my formatter to create a print ready version and e-book. From there it goes to both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

   I thumb through a Baby names book I got when Krystee was having her first child. When I get an inspiration there, I use it. Sometimes I come across names I like and use them. This is for first names. For last names, I keep old graduation ceremony handouts and look for a last name that goes well with the selected first name. Real scientific, Huh?

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

   I love this question.  My secrets are that some scenes of my fictional stories are in actuality based on facts or beliefs. Sometimes they come out in the news and I worry people will think I put them in because i saw them on the news.  In LifeShift, Alex has a dream where he is living  on Mars and meets with a girl at the shore of and ocean. This was originally written about 2004-5. Two years ago, about 2015, an article appeared saying that science now believes that Mars was one day home to oceans of water. My story was based on a personal dream.  Way back when I first wrote Piasa, I included the entire scene with an escaped tiger. Several years after that scene was written a news story appeared out of Texas about an escaped tiger.

If you had to choose, Piasa or Cryptid, and why?

     Piasa because it was my first. The story line of Cryptid was a substitute as it was originally supposed to be about the Tasmanian Tiger. However, some stupid movie came out with like, killer Tasmanian Tigers, so I abandoned that as a Cryptid I would write about. There continue to be stories out of Tasmania and mainland Australia regarding sightings of thylacines, so maybe I’ll reconsider. I would need to go to Tasmania though so I can write about it.

Mike, thank you very much for taking the time to do this with me! I greatly appreciate it!

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Interview With Jay DiNitto, Author Of Pale Blue Scratch

First of all, Jay DiNitto, thank you for taking your time to do this interview with me!

 Jay DiNitto is the author of Pale Blue Scratch, a wonderful story about a nun and her apprentice, and how they try to make a time-travel machine work.

You can download and read Pale Blue Scracth for free here.

 

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Where do you get your ideas from?

Most of the time, I get ideas from other stories, either from books, movies, or games. I don’t do this in the sense of stealing ideas wholesale, but most story ideas come from exploring how I would write a story or character different after consuming other stories.

 

Where did you get your idea for Pale Blue Scratch?

I was toying with the premise of an odd couple-type pair of sleuths trying to track down a scientist in trouble, where one of the sleuths really believes the scientist’s work is legitimate but the other sleuth doesn’t. Some of that was inspired by the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I also wanted to incorporate the philosophical idea of our senses being almost-infallible sources of knowledge. What if it clashes with scientific or practical knowledge? How is that reconciled?

I liked the idea of using religious figures as central characters, where they aren’t the scheming Big Bad or the abusive authority figure that fired up the rebellious protagonist. I took cues from what Umberto Eco did in The Name of the Rose, and The Father Dowling Mysteries (yes, I watched those). The “two guys” motif was too close to Holmes, so I changed the sex of one of them. At first it was a monk and a teenage girl, but that pairing was too unrealistic for me, so I switched them to a nun and teenager on his way to manhood. Also, I switched their personalities: the religious/teacher figure is the wild risk-taker while the teenager is the bookish, play-by-the-rules type. Their personalities are unusual but they aren’t out of control; I think too many fiction writers are careless with human behaviour and really go crazy with basically rewriting the human psyche.

I was reading a lot of anarchist writings (and watching Firefly) and came up with the “contractual society” setting. How would it work if there were no nation-state? How would roads, law enforcement, or laws themselves, work? I have interests in alternate history and alternate technology settings, so that played into the plot.

 

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

I don’t, really. I normally don’t force myself to write; I do it when I’m ready. I work full time and have a wife and kids, so that’s enough of a “block” as it is. One trick I’ve learned, regarding books, is to stop a writing session in the middle of a scene I particularly enjoy, so I have some motivation to return to it soon.

 

What does your writing process look like?

I’m middle-aged, but a young writer, and I don’t have a professional schedule, but I can describe the process for my new project (we’ll call it Project X).

I played around with premises a lot. Since so much has been addressed before and I want to make sure I’m writing about something that hasn’t been overdone. Once the premise is there, I’ll have some scene ideas, bits of dialogue, or philosophies I want to represent that go along with the premise. I like Elisabeth’s character, so Project X is another book with her in it.

For Project X, I wanted to have a society that mirrored the kind of society the ancient Hebrews lived in, in Old Testament times, so there’s a lot that has to go along with accommodating that plot point. From all those ideas I form a coherent chain of events, which eventually become chapters. From there, I’ll write summaries for each chapter before I start the actual first draft.

The biggest hurdle, especially with Project X, is determining who knows what, and when they know it. There’s lots of secrets and manipulations, so keeping characters in the dark and slowly revealing things to them takes a lot of organising.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

Honestly, I don’t spend a huge amount of time on character names or their significance. For Pale Blue Scratch, Elisabeth takes on her religious order’s name, so a great part of her character and profession reflects that. Other than that, I normally don’t attach too much significance to names unless the story demands it.

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not particularly, but in Pale Blue Scratch there are a few references to the game Chrono Trigger, which is also about time travel (though actual time travel isn’t a big part of the book). If you’re familiar with the game you’d be able to spot them.

 

You can find my review of Pale Blue Scratch HERE!

Pale Blue Scratch – Jay DiNitto [BOOK REVIEW]

Pale Blue Scratch - Jay DiNitto book novel books review blog wordpress writer author diary of difference

I was lucky enough to be approached by Jay DiNitto himself, and he sent me a copy of his first novel – Pale Blue Scratch (you can read the e-book for free here) in exchange for an honest review. This is a book unlike anything else I have ever read, and it left me impressed. I dearly enjoyed it, and maybe you will too.

About the book:

“I would disassemble this body and cast it onto the coronal burn of the sun if it means I get answers.” Thus proclaims the determined Elisabeth Reese, journalist, professor, and joke-cracking nun working in alternate history San Francisco. She has one goal: to rebuild a failed time machine that caused a lethal explosion during its initial demonstration. With her reluctant protege, a young budding scientist, she searches for the machine’s plans left behind by its exiled inventor. But her pursuit is disrupted, threatened by area conflict. A faction of the deadly Al Sayf al Ahmar-the Red Sword-has been rising to power. Lead by the hulking Crazed Herald, Maalik du Mahdi, the Red Sword heed a prophecy that will culminate in a battle between two “one-armed wild men.” Du Mahdi is believed to be the first of the pair, while his counterpart could be anyone…even a small, peculiar nun from across the bay. All Elisabeth wants is to witness the impossibility of time travel, but first she must battle the odds and fulfill the present. Part steampunk and part mystery, Pale Blue Scratch explores the conflict between the senses and logic, and the lengths one may go to resolve it.

Pale Blue Scratch - Jay DiNitto book novel books review blog wordpress writer author diary of difference

My thoughts: 

As I mentioned above, this is a book unlike any other that I have read. It is a great mix of fiction / action / fast-paced scenes / philosophy / psychology and a little bit of time-travelling.

Even though we have two main characters – Elizabeth and Vincent, this book focused more on Elizabeth, for various reasons.

There were times when the scenes were slow, and somewhat a bit dull, but there were also times when there were fast-paced scenes that make me bite my nails. Though, as a whole, I found the story to not quite fit my taste. It felt like Elizabeth didn’t have a great or a strong enough reason to do this adventure.

Elizabeth’s character – now this is something quite amusing! I have never met a character like this – so twisted in a cute hypocritical way. A nun with an adorable sense of humor, that goes around on a mission to make a time-travel machine, and happens to hurt people on her way… I loved her character in a very weird way (don’t judge!)

Now Vincent didn’t quite hit the mark. He seemed more of a plain character, like a little copy of someone else, somewhere, once upon a time. He gave the impression of a person that, unlike Elizabeth, didn’t quite knew where he belonged and what he’s doing. It felt like it didn’t bother him at all. And that’s alright. The moment when this started to hurt me was at the end – when he didn’t change a bit.

Even though a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to read much about time-travelling as I would want to, this book was quite amusing and it covered various random topics that I quite liked. I loved that variety when one moment you talk about religion, the other moment a great action scene happens, and then here we are again, discussing life philosophy.

All in all, to sum it all up – I greatly enjoyed this book! It was definitely unusual read, and unique in every single way. And if you love fiction / action / a bit of time-travelling / humor and philosophy, this might be easily your new favorite book!

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The Camelot Shadow – Sean Gibson [BOOK REVIEW]

‘’I can either tell you my tale, or I can respond to your feeble witticisms. I cannot, in my mildly inebriated state, do both.’’

This is not your usual story related to King Arthur, Merlin and Camelot. This will, in fact, be quite different story and not only unusual, but one of a kind.

We go back in time when Queen Victoria was ruling over England. In a time when the author really liked to point out the fact that the characters are using trains. It was pointed out so much, that I had to do a bit of research to see if trains existed in that time. They did – apparently England had the oldest rail transport in the world. And Queen Victoria was one of the first royals to use that form of transport too.

Now, I am not even sure why I kept going on about trains… Back to the story…

The Camelot Shadow covers the story of Lord Alfred Fitzwilliam, a man whose wife is ill from an incurable illness. When an opportunity arises, giving him the chance and hope that he might save the life of his lover, he goes on a mission to find an object from the time when King Arthur was the ruler of England, and Merlin was his companion.

With a help from a group of people, Alfred digs the history and the stories of the past, only to discover that not everything he believed in was true, and not everyone that he trusted is his ally.

A story that reminded me of Dan Brown’s work. Quite similar in the sense of clues, history, what is a myth and what is a fact, though also quite distinctive, as it covers people’s characters so well, describing their personalities in a powerful way.

‘’Wealth. Status. Happiness. A perfect life. All built on an ephemeral foundation, an impossibility masking a lie that, if exposed, if openly acknowledged, would bring it all crashing down around our heads.’’

When a great disappointment comes around, and all hope is gone, people change, and people feel things. A person starts to wonder what they did wrong, what could they have done differently, what if… Alfred is one of the people where we will see his change over the chapters. For better or for worse, I’ll let you decide.

‘’It was Guinevere’s infidelity that brought down Arthur’s Camelot’’ – he said, wiping a trickle of Scotch from his chin with the back of his sleeve. ‘’It was God’s cruelty that brought down mine.’’

A book that explains good and evil in the unusual way. I thought I could explain good and evil, but sometimes my evil can do you good, and your good can do harm to everyone. And power… oh what people are capable to do for power…

‘’Power, Arthur had taught him, was not something to covet, but rather something to treat in the same manner one might handle a wild mastiff – with considerable respect, constant vigilance, and a trace of fear. ‘’

If you are a fan of history fiction, and stories about Arthur and Merlin, you would definitely want to dive in into this book and get lost into the world. And that is not the only thing that this book covers… It covers hope, faith, loss, love, good, evil, power, guilt and everything in between. Get ready for an adventure. One full of bravery and magic. And maybe… maybe some hope.

A huge thank you to the author, Sean Gibson, who was kind enough to give me an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Wrebbit 3D Puzzle CAMELOT King Arthur’s Camelot 3D Puzzle (865-Piece)

The One And Only – Julia Ash [BOOK REVIEW]

When bio-terrorism threatens to obscure humanity, one woman has the power to restore hope.

Ruby Spencer is a wife and a mother. She also happens to be the only person that could save the people on Earth from dying! In moments when she is planning to resign from the U.S. Special Warfare Council, Ruby and her husband Clay are sent to one last mission.

With the last assignment being a low-risk mission to Taiwan where they need to analyze the zombie infection and consult with scientists, it seems like they are about to go on a long-deserved mini honeymoon.

But everything goes wrong! They get kidnapped, the biggest world powers all plan a war ahead, and it seems that only the ones that have Ruby are likely to win the war. They all fight over her, and she has no clue why. What makes her so special?

Review:

First of all, I have to thank the author, Julia Ash, for sending over this amazing book to me, in exchange for an honest review!  

The beginning of The One and Only is extremely breathtaking! I believe that the beginning might be the best part of the book, actually! The flow of the story is well-thought, and I especially loved the scenes where the author refers to the past, and made me feel like there was another book before that. It is quite easy to catch up with the beginning and the brief details of the past, but if in the future there is a prequel that explains it all – I would love to be the first one to know about it!

Now, the characters are probably the reason that made the book the way it is! We have Ruby, who is our heroine, a brave lady, ready to give all the love, courage and wisdom in the world. She is a mother, a wife, and a brave fighter that never gives up and is never afraid to stand up against evil.

On the other hand, we have her husband – Clay. He was… alright. I suppose? His love for Ruby and their daughter is incredible, but somehow, I could think of him as a manly enough figure in their relationship. He was smart and brave, but not as smart and brave as Ruby.

I couldn’t somehow connect with him.

The character that intrigued me the most is Ox. I loved how Julia has shown us the psychological profile of this man, and the way he thinks. It was lovely reading about his part of his story, and even though he was on the wrong side, it is what he believes in. And the way it is written in so extraordinary, that at times I could see myself giving him an excuse.

The only part that I couldn’t agree with, and I am refusing to accept is – THE ENDING! I will withdraw myself from spoilers, but that’s not how things should have ended! That is not the ending I wanted, that is not the ending I was hoping for. No, no, no. It made me upset, and angry, and I wanted to break something very bad! That was a huge disappointment for me and it changed my whole perception of the story and the book itself.

If you ever get the chance to read this book – you should expect a lot of twists, a lot of ups and downs, and if you are like me and are trying hard to not bite your nails – well, you’re about to fail. This is not your typical book about zombie apocalypse. This is not your usual book about a heroine being kidnapped. This is not your usual book of how a person saves the world. This will be nothing like you expected, and everything you hoped for.

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Gunshots & Goalposts: The Story of Northern Irish Football – Benjamin Roberts [BOOK REVIEW]

For the lovers of football and history – this book will be of your interest. If you happen to have any connecting with Northern Ireland as well – this book is made for you!

I don’t think I fit in the description above. I love watching football – but I am not a football maniac, that knows who plays where, the club’s managers and who is on top of the Champion’s League this year. I love me some good sports matches, and I know a lot of players by name or face, but that’s about it.

Now – Gunshots & Goalposts: The Story of Northern Irish Football – the book that covers the stories of many football players in the past century in Northern Ireland.

While it covers so many stories, I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters, and I choose to blame this on the way the book was written.

Which – is not a bad thing at all. Why? Because, this book is not meant to make you fall in love with the characters. It is instead, meant to show you the real picture of their lives, the politics that were ongoing in that time, and give you a brief history lesson of what you happened to miss in high school. All related to football, of course.

For me, it was very useful to learn a bit about the politics and history. Before I started the book, I knew NOTHING about Northern Ireland’s history. I knew NOTHING about their football history. This was a great first book for me to dive into the waters of the history of Northern Ireland’s football.

The author, Benjamin Roberts, has done a wonderful job in the description and research. It covers a lot of the history period from the First and Second World War, the protestants vs catholics, the unionists vs nationalists, the east vs the west.

This book reminds me a lot of a movie that has been made in the country where I was born – Macedonia. The movie was called ‘’The Third Half’’ and deals with Macedonian Football during World War II, and the deportation of Jews from Macedonia. It reminded me a bit of this, even though in this book we don’t connect with the characters, or dive into their stories too much.

This is a three-star book for me – for the sole reason that this is not a book that I would usually read, and I wouldn’t read books similar to this one either. I enjoyed it, at times, but wouldn’t re-read it. However, I would definitely recommend it to people that love both football and history. I just prefer books where I connect with the characters.

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Quarry’s Climax – Max Allan Collins [BOOK REVIEW]

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Quarry’s Climax is the 14th book of the Quarry series, and even though I only had the chance to read this one, the rest of the books are certainly something that I have put on my TBR list!

The plot is simple – until, of course, it gets complicated:

Quarry is a Hitman – he kills people for pleasure, I mean, money! He works for this guy ‘’the Broker’’ and his new mission is to protect a chairman of an underrated Porn magazine and strip club – The Climax. When this task might seem easy, suddenly everyone hides something and everyone has secrets. And then our man Quarry – who usually goes on the spot and just kills whoever he needs to, now has to play the role of a detective, find out what the hell is going on in this rat hole, and eliminate any danger.

Now – first things first – I am not usually a person that reads these types of books – Pulp fiction, hardboiled fiction, entangled harsh noir stories, but this book pleasantly surprised me with its light reading experience and admirable description of the characters.

Quarry – now that’s one interesting character! Quarry is what happens when you mix a Cowboy personality, with a bit of witty humour, no respect for ladies and egotistical appearance. I happened to actually kind of like this guy!

Though the part I didn’t like it how he treats women and talks about them as they are a piece of meat with no brain whatsoever. I am not a feminist, but I mean – you couldn’t have tried harder, I guess. He would just go to a scene, let us know how irrelevant and thick this lady is, he would sleep with her, never call her again, and then continue with his life as nothing happened. Wonderful, isn’t it?

This is one of a kind book for me, and even though I wouldn’t put it on my favorites pile, it has a special place in my heart. I greatly enjoyed it, and it made me smirk at times. I will definitely explore this genre in the future, and I am sure that Quarry’s Climax was a great beginning for me on that.

I received this book by winning a Goodreads Giveaway from Max Allan Collins and Hard Case Crime.